The Public School’s Approach
It was the first week of middle school for 12- year- old Maddie. She was excited, but nervous to start the adventure of middle school. Just as the tardy bell rang, Maddie slid into her seat at the front of the class. The class began with the ordinary introduction of material, including a “getting to know you” survey. As she filled out the survey, Maddie was surprised to see a question asking students which pronouns they preferred. The survey also asked if the school could share that information with their parents.
Across the street, high-schoolers were being presented with a worksheet entitled, “The Gender Unicorn.” The worksheet was supposed to teach students about the differences between gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and physical vs. emotional attraction. In a school that requires parent signatures for watching movies rated anything over PG, gender education was taking place without parental consent or knowledge.
The Debate: Moral vs. Secular
With the introduction of the Equality Act, incorporating sex and gender education in schools became a hotly debated topic. Of course, there are strong arguments for both sides of the issue, and the debate has left many communities divided. Educators are being asked to teach about a topic that covers both secular and moral principles. On the other hand, parents are mad about being left in the dark when it comes to the sex education of their children.
Our country is at a crossroads when it comes to the gender and sex education of our children. Whatever your views on gender and sexuality, our children are growing up in a society that includes pronouns and genders beyond he/she, male/female. Carrie Hunt clearly stated the issue when she said, “what once brought purpose, clarity, definition and identity to a child both individually and socially, now comes in so many varieties that many children struggle to find their grounding.”
What Can We Do?
So how do we help children find their footing? Should schools continue to push such education without parental consent in the name of protecting and leading children? Should parents try to shelter their kids from such education because only two genders really exist?
It seems the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Having a healthy understanding of sexuality and gender is crucial to finding purpose, clarity, and identity in life. Because of this, it’s important for children to receive some form of education on the topic. Parents and educators tend to see eye to eye on this. Over 93 % of parents feel that sex education is important for their middle and high school students. And 33 states have emphasized the importance of sex education by mandating it for public schools. The division then comes down to the lack of curriculum transparency between the school and parents. Surprisingly, only 5 of the 33 states that mandate sex education require parental consent in order for children to receive instruction.
Even though parents want their kids to learn about sex, many families fail to teach their children in the home. Data shows that this vital instruction is not occurring often enough. Maybe this is because parents don’t know how to appropriately broach these topics with their children. That being said, national surveys find that nearly all teenagers have received sex education by the age of 18. Where do they get this education? Through public schools. Since gender and sexuality education isn’t happening in the majority of homes, public educators have taken upon themselves the role of teaching kids about sex.
Schools & Parents Working Together
For the most part, we can agree that parents and educators have the child’s best interest in mind. While parents are generally responsible for instilling moral values and religious beliefs in their children, schools are responsible for teaching secular subjects. But gender and sexuality education encompasses both secular and moral teachings.
Because of this, the best solution involves clearly defining the boundary between the two. With the ever-changing terms and ideas children encounter, schools should first and foremost encourage parents to be the preeminent voice in teaching their kids about sex. In addition, parents and schools must work together to decide on appropriate sex education curriculum. As parents and schools work together to establish an honest, transparent relationship, they will be able to clearly define the line between public sex education and private sex education. This open and transparent communication is vital in order to teach sex education in a way that allows our children to find purpose, clarity, and identity both at home and at school.
When my son was about 8 years old, he quietly knocked on the door of our bedroom one night. We invited him in, and I could sense his unease. “Mommy, I think I did something bad.” The tears began to flow as we scooped him up and inquired over his supposed misdeed. “I was watching a music video and I saw a man’s bum. It was naked. I’m so sorry”. He believed he had viewed pornography. He was a sobbing mess, but my mommy-heart melted over the admission because we have always been honest in our home about the damaging effects of pornography. This meant it had sunk into his little mind and heart. Even a naked bum sent his conscience reeling. He believed he had viewed pornography. And he was right, accidental as it was.
The Problem with Pornography
While this event might seem minor in the grand scheme of what could have been available to my son in the world of pornography, it’s still no small matter. It’s a rare occasion that users of pornography jump straight to “hard-core porn”. It usually starts inadvertently and small: a naked rear, for example. Most exposure happens early, with the average first age of exposure at 8 years old. One Australian study reports that by age 14, nearly 94% of youth have seen pornography. This is troublesome on many levels. This is a crucial developmental period when an under-developed prefrontal cortex makes children and youth less capable of making rational decisions. My son fit the demographics to a tee, and we count ourselves blessed that he had the good sense to look away and come talk to us.
Many of you, like me, are parents with unsuspecting, innocent children. You love them, care for them, and want what’s best for them. You’d do anything to protect them. But the pornography industry is crafty. They don’t care about protecting your children. Your children are seen as potential consumers for their product. And they will do anything to hook them. Pornography is nicely packaged these days. A popular magazine, lyrics of a catchy song, popup ads, or a music video. It’s easier than ever for your child to be exposed and hooked.
Some argue the benefits of porn. Such benefits include sexual education, sexual satisfaction, and sexual release. But the other side of the coin speaks volumes when correlations are linked to rape, aggression, sex-trafficking, infidelity, divorce, among others.
Think it would never happen in your home or that your child has never been exposed? Think again. A recent report by the BBFC reports that while 75% of parents believe their children have never seen porn, 53% of those children actually have. Your children could be among those.
How You Can Protect Your Family
While those numbers can be discouraging, it doesn’t mean that we can’t do something about it. And it doesn’t mean that accidental exposure inevitably leads to a pornography addiction. My son is proof that with the right kind of education and action, we can feel secure that our children will make the right decisions in those moments. We can take charge in our homes today to protect our children against pornography exposure and its damaging effects. Here are seven things that have worked for our family:
1. Do the talking before someone else does.
The pornography industry is eager to get to your children before you do. Don’t give them the satisfaction. If pornography exposure starts early, then talking needs to start early.
2. Make home a safe space to talk.
Our kids know that they can ask us anything without unfair reaction or judgement. Children need to know that they can have their questions answered lovingly and honestly. If your child has a question, let them ask and then do your best to answer. If you don’t know, say so, and schedule a time to talk again once you’ve found answers. Keep your word and follow up. Parent-child communication is key to opening up about these hard issues.
3. The discussion about pornography must be ongoing.
I cringe when I hear parents say that they’ve successfully given their children “the talk.” This is not a “one and done” event. Discussing important things like sex and pornography must be ongoing. Your children are growing and developing. This includes their understanding of and curiosity about pornography. Keep talking.
4. Set rules as a family.
We found that our children are more likely to keep rules that they help make. We also found that they are more willing to make rules when they understand the why behind needing them. Tell them how damaging pornography can be. Then trust them to help you make rules to keep the family safe. They will surprise you!
5. Have a healthy dialogue about dating, marriage, love, and sex.
Pornography distorts a child’s view of what real love is. Pornography teaches a child to objectify another person. When parents talk positively and honestly about dating, marriage, love, and sex, we teach them that people are for loving in real ways. Sex is an expression of that love and is most satisfying within a devoted relationship. There is no room for pornography in a healthy relationship because it teaches us that people are to be used instead of loved.
6. Talk about your body and the bodies of others in uplifting, positive ways.
Pornography will challenge the self-esteem of a person because of its ability to distort the reality of the human body. Let them know how beautiful and amazing the human body is and that it should be treated with respect. Bodies are not perfect and come in all shapes and sizes. Speak kindly about your body and the bodies of others.
7. Watch for warning signs.
Is your child unusually stressed, tired, depressed, secretive, and removed? While this might indicate many different types of problems, it might also be time to ask about and reevaluate their digital habits. They may be struggling with pornography. Be supportive and ready to help.
Keeping Kids Safe
I know these steps have helped in our home. My son, now 13, is a happy and healthy teenager. He uses his devices in the family room because this is a rule he helped make. He knows it keeps him safe. He knows that if something does happen, he can always come talk to my husband or I because our home is a safe space. My son knows that his body is a gift and that it should be respected. He knows that the bodies of others should be respected. He knows that real relationships are built on love and trust. Above all, he knows that we love him and that we’re proud of the person he’s becoming. He knows that pornography holds no place in becoming the man he wants to be. While we can’t safeguard our children completely, these small steps can help continue the battle against pornography.
Sarah Fairbanks is a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho. She is majoring in Marriage and Family Studies with an emphasis in Human Services. She will graduate in December 2021. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three children.
I check my watch again: 3:45 am, and I’m wide awake. Exhausted, but awake.
Part of it is because I’m 8 months pregnant and my body hurts all over. (I think my body is practicing the no sleep thing for when the baby comes. 😛 )
But part of it is because I can’t stop thinking about my Facebook feed yesterday.
At first, I was confused by the two word status updates popping up everywhere: “Me too.” But then one friend wrote a little explanation along with it. She said, “If all the people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy and paste if you feel so inclined.”
As more and more of my friends joined in with their “Me too,” my heart ached. I didn’t know whether to click like, love, or sad. I was so proud of these brave women for speaking out, but so sad that we live in a world full of so much sexual harassment.
While sexual violence has fallen significantly since 1993, it’s still a huge problem today. In fact, statistics show that every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And if you’re a woman, you have about a 1 in 5 chance of being raped at some point in your life.
Everyone is affected by sexual harassment or assault a little bit differently. But often there are both physical and mental consequences. In addition to the risk of STIs and pregnancy, victims of sexual assault often struggle with PTSD, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. It can also cause more general emotional challenges, like difficulty trusting others or feelings of fear and helplessness.
One month from today, our baby girl is due to come into this world. I can’t help but worrying, will she have to post “me too” one day? Will she end up being part of the almost 20% of women who get raped in their lifetime? Will she have to struggle with the fear and pain that comes from being a victim of sexual harassment or assault?
I sincerely hope not.
While I’m grateful for the many women and men who are fighting against this plague of sexual violence, there are some aspects of our society today that seem to contribute in a negative way.
Many people are pushing back against sexual violence, but some of these same people are also advocating strongly for sexual exploration and freedom. This March while visiting the UN Commission on the Status of women, I heard many voices advocating for sexual rights of all kinds.
And to some extent, I’m grateful for the work that’s been done so far. I’m grateful that I can decide when I want to marry and have children, that I have control over my sex life.
On the other hand, it seems that the push for sexual freedom has had some unforeseen consequences. Dr. Leslie C. Bell explains it well:
“Today’s 20-something women have more freedom than their grandmothers could have imagined – educational, professional, and personal. But while this freedom has engendered a great deal of opportunity, it hasn’t necessarily resulted in women having good sex and satisfying relationships in their twenties.”
Much of the push for sexual freedom has placed an emphasis on our own personal fulfillment. Do whatever you want, whatever makes you feel good physically. Sex is about you, not about anyone else, today’s media seems to say.
Unfortunately, that emphasis on personal fulfillment may have had the opposite effect.
With all this sexual freedom, pursuing whatever you want physically, you may think it would lead to better sex. But according to research from Dr. John Gottman, perhaps the biggest key to sexual fulfillment is your friendship. While casual sex can be fun and exciting, one survey found that the happiest couples are those who communicate and build up the intimacy that is foundational for fulfilling sex. When sex is about your relationship, not just about you, it becomes a whole lot better.
So in actuality, it turns out that sexual fulfillment isn’t just about the physical. And it certainly isn’t just about you.
If we aren’t careful, the way we promote sexual freedom can also promote sexual selfishness. This selfishness will not only lead to less fulfilling sex, but it also can be dangerous. This line of thinking that says “Sex is all about me” is one that ignores the other person involved.
I’m sure those who rape or sexually assault others are, in a twisted way, seeking their own sexual pleasure. They have decided to use their sexual freedom selfishly. And unfortunately, they do this at a great cost to those around them.
Sexual Freedom Isn’t Free
In teaching our kids about their sexuality, we must help them realize that sexuality isn’t just about them. Other people are involved, people who deserve to be loved and respected.
As we push not just for sexual freedom but for mutual love and respect, we can achieve sexual freedom without promoting sexual selfishness. We can help our kids see that sexual freedom isn’t really free, because with these rights come great responsibilities.
Getting ready to welcome our baby girl into the world has put this all in a new light for me. I hope the numbers of sexual harassment and assault can continue to decline. I hope sincerely that she doesn’t become a part of the statistics. And I hope that one day, nobody has to say “Me too.”
Generally speaking, husbands want to have sex more frequently than their wives. This probably doesn’t surprise you. But, you may be surprised to learn that this mismatch can actually strengthen your marriage.
Pop Quiz for You Wives:
Ladies, be honest, do you ever intentionally stay up later than your husband – under the guise of doing important stuff – though you’re secretly giving hubby enough time to fall asleep before you get to bed?
Or, notwithstanding persuasive evidence about the importance of marital kissing (see my article on the six second kiss) do you sometimes withhold your lips in fear that they may send an unintended message?
Maybe you routinely make not-so-subtle comments as you get into bed?
Monday – “Whew, I sure am tired tonight, that exciting Monday Night Football game drained me.”
Tuesday – “Those allergies seem to have returned in force, you really don’t want to kiss me right now.”
Wednesday – “I’ve got a busy day tomorrow, busy, busy, busy…need some solid REM”
Thursday – “I’m pretty sure I’m coming down with smallpox (if not something worse). I’ll understand if you want to sleep on the couch tonight.”
Friday – “…I’d love to, but I just ‘started’ this morning.”
Husbands, Quit Laughing – Your Turn for a Quiz:
Men, do you suddenly become quite a bit more helpful around the house when you are “in the mood”?
Do you find yourself frequently thinking about having sex with your wife, yet you forget other details about her – such as her birthday?
Are you surprised to find out that true intimacy includes much more than just sex? (If you don’t believe me, ask your wife.)
Supported By Research
These are clearly extreme stereotypes that likely don’t accurately describe your marriage. But, research does suggest that, generally, husbands desire sex more often (and often much more often) than wives.
Of course, your marriage may not follow the statistical “norm.” And, in some marriages, wives may want as much or more sex than their husbands. But for any couple with mismatched levels of sexual desire, what can be done? What should be done? And, how on earth can this actually strengthen a marriage?
Wouldn’t it be easier if men and women were created more equally with regard to sexual desire? Really, just think about the conflict and frustration that could be removed from marriage if both spouses were completely in-sync with regard to when and how often to have sex. In fact, wouldn’t marriage be easier if spouses were also hard-wired to spend money the same way, or if they preferred the same vacations, restaurants, and entertainment?
In short, yes, this would be easier. But on the other hand, we would be missing a fantastic opportunity for growth!
A Broader View of Marriage
If the purpose of marriage was individual and immediate gratification, then a sexual mismatch may seem disastrous. And, while I fear too many people see marriage with this “what’s in it for me” mentality, truly successful couples have a much broader view of marriage. These couples genuinely care about their spouse’s needs more than their own (inside and outside of the bedroom)!
Marriage, more than any other relationship, grants us the ongoing opportunity to overcome our selfishness by striving to put our spouse’s needs before our own. And the sexual aspect of marriage provides an ideal opportunity to be lovingly selfless.
Thus, in a very real way, couples that learn to bridge their “sexual mismatch” by openly communicating and tenderly compromising will become stronger as a couple!
Marriage is More Than Just Sex
While marriage consists of so much more than simply sexual satisfaction, I am convinced that a marriage cannot be truly happy if there is lingering frustration in this aspect of the relationship. I love this quote by Dr. Douglas Brinley:
Marriage is not just for sex, of course, but sex is a profound means of expressing love and commitment. It is designed to be a physical, emotional, and spiritual union; hence a high form of validation. Just as a good marriage increases sexual interest, so satisfactory sexual relations adds soul-binding emotional strength to marriage. There are few ways as powerful as the sexual union of a man and woman that are so expressive of mutual love.
How Healthy is Your Sexual Relationship?
The good news is that countless couples thoroughly enjoy their sexual relationship and view it as an important part of a healthy and happy marriage. The bad news is that, for too many couples, physical intimacy is a cause of stress, disappointment, and frustration.
So how are things going in your marriage? (This is rhetorical; please don’t email us with a response.)
I hope things are going well for you! However, some of you may be inadvertently guilty of sexual ignorance or sexual selfishness. For instance, do you know how often your spouse desires to have sex during a week or month? Likewise, do you know if your spouse is currently happy with the state of your sexual relationship? Do you two talk about this important aspect of your marriage? Are you genuinely concerned about your spouse’s needs and desires?
Remember, your sexual relationship has the potential to be a wonderful aspect of a healthy marriage. It can also be an area of disagreement, stress, and frustration. How we respond to the “sexual mismatch” can greatly influence our overall marital happiness!
I challenge you to sincerely ask yourself, “How can I be more selfless and less selfish with regard to our sexual union?” For some of you it may mean seeking sex less often out of kindness and love for your spouse. For others it may be accepting a spouse’s advances more often (and even initiating love making periodically). Whatever it may be, have the courage and kindness to act on those thoughts! Your marriage will be stronger for it.
And, because there are so many couples who silently struggle in this area, please take a minute and share this article through email and your social media channels. Together, we can help strengthen marriages!
Before considering how selfishness may be showing up in your marriage, let me first share a quick disclaimer about the title.
Honestly, I was pretty proud of myself for making a clever play on the old saying “sex, money, and rock n’ roll.” Then, a few hours later I sadly realized that the saying was actually “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” – thus making my title less clever. But this not-as-clever-as-I-once-envisioned title was still better than my other lame attempts…so I’m running with it. 😎
Now, on to selfishness within our marriages.
The Sexual Relationship
Healthy marriages are clearly based on so much more than just the physical relationship. However, a mutually satisfying sexual relationship still plays an important part! Author and intimacy expert Laura M. Brotherson shared a number ways in which couples can benefit (both individually and as a couple) as they prioritize lovemaking.
Among these reasons, she noted that sex can improve emotional intimacy, can be a great stress reliever, can actually boost the immune system, can build self-esteem, can improve sleep, and more.
A healthy and mutually satisfying sexual relationship really is a necessary ingredient for a happy marriage.
So, how are things going in your marriage? Is it possible that you’re allowing sexual selfishness to sabotage your marriage?
Sexual Selfishness Quiz
- Do you only consent to sex when you are in the mood?
- Do you insist upon sex when your spouse isn’t in the mood?
- Do you genuinely care about your spouse’s sexual satisfaction?
- Do you place this bonding marital act low on your to-do list?
The sexual relationship can be a wonderful aspect of a healthy marriage. However, when selfishness exists, this part of marriage can become an area of disagreement, stress, and frustration.
Money issues can cause stress in many marriages. Let’s face it, life can be expensive! Lots of articles talks about how financial stress can harm your marriage (see this NY Times article as an example).
Sadly, too many of the “money issues” couples deal with are self-inflicted.
As you take this quiz, honestly check yourself. Is financial selfishness is an issue in your marriage?
Financial Selfishness Quiz
- Do you often find yourself thinking more about buying what you want rather than what your spouse would prefer?
- Do you thing about whether or not your purchases fit within your family’s / couple’s budget?
- Do you purchase things without your spouse’s consent (or against his/her will)?
- Are you sneaky with your spending (like hiding some of your purchases from your spouse)?
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that selfish financial behavior is pretty common. If you struggle with this, please recognize that these habits could really hurt your marriage.
There’s one more area of selfishness that’s a bit sneakier: self-loathing (see this article for more information). Let me clear: being consistently down and hard on yourself is not a very pleasurable form of selfishness. But if we’re consistently “blue,” it can still damage the marriage just like other forms of selfishness.
We all experience some sadness of course. And there are some who struggle with clinical depression and may benefit from medical attention to help with this illness. However, for the rest of us, as we frequently allow ourselves to remain mired in our own “pity parties,” we are unable to give our best to the marriage relationship.
Take this last quiz and ask yourself, are there “pity parties” that are hurting your relationship?
Self-loathing selfishness Quiz
- Do you often find it hard to love and serve your spouse because of how you feel about yourself?
- Do you allow negative thoughts about your body or your appearance to impact your physical relationship?
- Do you convince yourself that you are not a good spouse and then allow those destructive thoughts to become a reality?
Among other things, marriages need consistent attention, friendship, and passion if they are going to thrive. Since we all have a limited amount of time and energy, if we choose to focus inwardly we won’t be able to give the time or energy needed to have a great marriage!
I have yet to see a marriage that hasn’t encountered selfishness at some point. But how we respond to our own “humanness” (as well as the “humanness” of our spouse) makes all the difference.
If you’re guilty of any of these forms of selfishness, for the sake of your marriage, work at it! We all have the ability to improve!
Please remember that happy marriages don’t simply happen. Rather, they are the result of consistent effort and intentional decisions to nourish the relationship.